BREMEN, Ga - Calhoun head coach Hal Lamb can't seem to remember how many years it's been since his Yellow Jackets have lost a region game. "I'm not really sure," Lamb said.
Bremen head coach Davis Russell can tell him.
"Sixteen years and eight days," said Russell, whose Blue Devils will attempt to end the Calhoun streak of 105 consecutive region wins Friday night from Bremen High Athletic Stadium at Redding Field- a place Russell proudly dubs "the prettiest little stadium in America"
You can't blame Bremen's second-year head coach. He knows exactly what this game means to his players and the city that supports them.
"I tell my players if anyone says it's just another game- that's crap. I told them they need to enjoy it...every bit of it. This has been our goal and I want them to embrace it," said Russell.
The stakes are high. The winner of this game takes Region 6-South-AAA and gets the top seed in next week's region play-in game. This will be Lamb's first visit to Bremen High School, a place that will be bursting at the seams come game time, with an overflow crowd of over 4,000 expected. Temporary bleachers had to be installed to handle the expected throngs of people coming through the gates.
"This is sort of uncharted territory," said Lamb. "This is the first time we've ever been there and it's basically a playoff game."
Calhoun (7-1) uses a strong defensive front featuring big nose tackle C.J. Fuller, and a trio of athletic linebackers, Bailey Lester, Owen Williams and 6-foot-5 Davis Allen to plug the run. Bremen (8-0) likes to pound it on the ground behind Tyran Dobbs who's rushed for over a thousand yards and scored 18 touchdowns this season.
"I tell our kids we're 8-0 because we've gone 1-0 eight times," said Russell. "We've got a team full of runts. I think we've got one, maybe two guys over 200 pounds, but we're one of the top defenses in the state. We do have some good football players, but we have lots of guys who play over their heads too."
Davis Russell is the grandson of the legendary Erk Russell, who famously coached the "Junkyard Dawgs" defense under Vince Dooley at Georgia, and later led Georgia Southern to three national championships. Davis even shares the same bald-headed, high energy approach to coaching his players.
"We got lucky," Bremen Athletic Director Robert Dorch told FOX 5 Sports. "He's brought so much much excitement here over the past two seasons. He's a ball of energy. You can tell the gene pool carried far in his family."
"Ugly skips a generation, because my dad's handsome." said Russell. "I'm just a big ole bald guy like Erk was, but I can't compare myself to my grandad. If I can be 1/100th the coach he was I'll be a success."
Even though Erk Russell passed away eleven years ago, he still holds a special place in his grandson's heart. Erk gave Davis the nickname "Rooster" because, as a child, he used to cry when the rooster crowed in the morning. Now most of Davis' friends, and even his wife, use the moniker instead of his given name. And on Friday nights Rooster Russell paces the sidelines with the same intensity of his grandfather. Last week against Adairsville he even bloodied his bald head, just like Erk used to do, after celebrating with a player.
Bremen, a school of only 650 students boasts a student section that's nearly half that size, complete with cowbells and homemade signs celebrating the Blue Devils on game nights. Many of those students will take part in a pregame pep rally on campus at 2:30 p.m.- and don't be surprised if Davis Russell's leading the cheers with his 2-year-old son Erk in tow, before coaching in the biggest game of his young life.
Bill Hartman reports live from Bremen beginning at 5 p.m. featuring the award-winning Bremen Blue Devil Band and the school's cheerleading squad. Both coaches are scheduled to appear live in the 6 o'clock hour of FOX 5 News and full highlights of the game will follow on the Big Show at 11 p.m.